"Congressman's Wife Died After Taking Herbal Remedy Marketed for Diabetes & Weight Loss" is the headline from CBS News, and it also caught my eye when it was reported by the NY Times. These reports caused me to ask the question, "How safe are supplements?"
"White Mulberry Leaf" was the cause of death for the Congressman's wife. She took it as a supplement, either taken in the form of a capsule or tea. Either way, it wasn't previously considered dangerous, but now, it's toxic. It's something I could imagine myself trying back when I used to let the promise of a new supplement sway me easily.
The overall risk of taking supplements outweighs any potential benefit. Now that I've read more of the published reports from the FDA and Kaiser Health, who've both been sharing the toxic and unexpected consequences of the White Mulberry Leaf supplement. Knowing that even tea could be deadly causes me to stop, share, and notice.
Yes, supplements are more dangerous than medications. Unlike medications, FDA does not have the authority to approve dietary supplements for the safety and effectiveness of the labeling before they are sold in stores or online. This means manufacturers have a loophole to take liberties with the label and the content in the bottle. This means the label isn't always an accurate reflection of the consumer's consumption.
Periodically the FDA will inspect dietary supplement manufacturing facilities to verify that companies are meeting all manufacturing and labeling requirements. Still, it appears to be a more reactive process to adverse actions vs. a proactive approach.
When taking medications, consumers have the benefit of knowing the ingredients are fully disclosed, so they can decide if potential adverse reactions are worth the risk. More importantly, when the ingredients aren't declared on the label, the consumer is unaware of any conflict or danger. These undeclared ingredients also become a more severe problem when they interact with current medications, which can cause unexpected harm.
When adverse, unexpected reactions are reported, the FDA gets involved. But by then, the harm is done. And shutting down these manufacturers and recalling the harmful products isn't easy with the internet's direct-to-consumer sales model on social media platforms and global shopping sites like Amazon or online pharmacies.
FDA found medications not approved for use in the USA in supplements, along with undisclosed seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and more! The consequences of consumers unknowingly ingesting these substances are why the FDA sends a clear warning for the high risk of heart attack, stroke, and more.
Currently, 213 "tainted" and dangerous weight-loss products are listed on the FDA's website. Unfortunately, the list includes only the ones the FDA is aware of. New products are being manufactured daily.
There's no guarantee that supplements are safe or effective. Tainted dietary supplements are so prevalent the FDA categorizes these nutritional supplements into seven categories to help consumers search before buying.
If you still need more reasons why supplements aren't "worth" the risk. Here's a quick glimpse at the consequence and risks to metabolic health.
Fructose, fruit juice concentrates, new-fangled high-carb concentrates like glucose polymers, and sugars smuggled into supplements make them unhealthy. Initially, those ingredients were my biggest concern. They influenced me to stop taking any pill, gummy, capsule, drink, or fizzy tablet dissolved into water for "Immune Support, Energy Boost, and Dietary Supplementation."
The science and research journals all reported that those ingredients sabotage a healthy metabolism, causing interference with weight loss, increased appetite, activating fat storage, and decreasing overall energy later in the day. But that shouldn't be the evidence that anyone needs to stop taking supplements; what's more convincing is the FDA's website.
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